Union leaders criticise Theresa May after crunch Brexit talks in Downing Street | Politics News

Union leaders have criticised Theresa May as they emerged from crunch talks in Downing Street to break the Brexit impasse.

Bosses of the Trades Union Congress, Unite and Unison said the prime minister refused to budge enough and called for Brexit to be delayed so proper “censuses” could be reached.

Theresa May
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Theresa May has invited opposition leaders and trade union bosses for talks

Frances O’Grady, head of the federation of trade unions known as the TUC, told Sky News she did not get sufficient guarantees to protect jobs and workers’ rights.

She said: “The prime minister needs to give a sign of good faith that this isn’t just a one-off meeting.

“If she’s serious about listening to other voices and giving people a fair hearing, then she needs more time.

“And it’s better to have a good deal than a quick deal.

“I think she should take that threat of a catastrophic no deal off the table and seek more time.”

Ms O’Grady added that the prime minister must “stop playing to just the bad boys at the back of the class and listen to others for a change”.

Len McCluskey, General Secretary of Unite the Union, arrives in Downing Street to meet Theresa May
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Len McCluskey rounded on the Lib Dems and SNP

Len McCluskey, leader of Unite, backed Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn for refusing to participate in government talks until the threat of a “no-deal” Brexit was removed, something which would see the UK leave the EU with no agreements in place for a future relationship.

He called the Liberal Democrats “rather stupid” for agreeing to participate in the discussions.

The long-time union boss added: “Am I enthusiastic about the meeting I’ve just had? Not particularly. Only because it’s [about] action rather than words.”

General Secretary of UNISON Dave Prentis arrives in Downing Street
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Unison boss Dave Prentis called time ‘a precious commodity’

Dave Prentis, the general secretary of Unison, also complained at being invited for talks in Number 10 with fewer than 70 days until Brexit.

“To be called in at the last minute and then to just agree things wasn’t on,” he told Sky News.

“We need time to negotiate, time to get compromises, time to get consensus.”

Mr Prentis revealed he had pushed Mrs May to negotiate a new customs union deal with Brussels and delay Article 50 – the mechanism a country triggers to leave the EU – to give enough time for negotiators to discuss one.

He added: “Time is a precious commodity.

“I’ve been a negotiator for over 40 years and I know that you do need the time in order to get a big agreement like this put to bed and make sure that we can get consensus rather than the division that we’re finding.”

Downing Street refused to confirm it would enshrine workers’ rights guarantees in Brexit legislation, with the prime minister’s spokesperson only saying they were “not ruling it out”.

Mrs May has been meeting a range of MPs – from Labour, the Lib Dems, the SNP, Green Party and Plaid Cymru – in a bid to find a Brexit deal that could pass in parliament.

Her agreement lost by 230 votes earlier this month as Brexiteers and Remainers combined to reject it.

The UK is due to leave the EU by default at 11pm on 29 March.

It will quit the bloc with a deal if one is passed in the UK and European parliaments, or leave with no deal if the impasse cannot be overcome.

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